The Death of Lazarus - The Manifestation of God's Glory
Ordinarily, whenever somebody dies and the family calls or a priest is invited, the issue is not for the priest to raise the dead person but to discuss and arrange funerals. Normally, the family of the deceased does not expect the priest to perform any miracle (bring the dead person back to life) at funerals.
Lazarus, whose name means “helped by God,” was the brother of Mary and Martha and lived in Bethany, a small town about two miles from Jerusalem on the eastern edge of the Mount of Olives. Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s home was Jesus’s “home away from home,” and he stayed there often, especially when travelling to and from Jerusalem.
When Mary and Martha sent words to Jesus informing him of the death of their brother Lazarus, they certainly were not expecting him to come and raise their brother from the dead. So, Mary and Jesus head to the tomb because Jesus requested to see the place where they laid his friend. The crowd of mourners followed. An old Jewish tradition held that the soul of the dead hovered near the body for three days. But after that, there truly was no hope. It has been four since Lazarus has been placed in the tomb.
Death is a great mystery to us because we do not understand it. We fear it, dread it, fight against it, and attempt to overcome it. We see death as the ultimate enemy. By touching the dead, and raising the dead back to life, Jesus demonstrates that death is simply a part of this life, and a passage to the next. God is in control, NOT death.
“Jesus ordered the tomb to be open.” Martha and the onlookers worry about the stench. Jesus reminds them that if they believe they will see the glory of God. He orders Lazarus to come out. And, so he does, though how stiffly he must have moved with his bound hands, feet, legs, and face. Jesus simply said, “Untie him and let him go.”
Jesus has come to release us from our tombs of sin and death. Jesus sets us free and unbounds us. The words of Jesus are not limited to the experience of death. We all experience many losses in life, little deaths, things that we have to grieve for. It could be our relationship, finance, health, job loss, our security or the loss of something that meant a lot to us. We have to trust somehow that even in these sufferings God can bring life out of death. As St. Paul tells us: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.”
Like all of humanity, Lazarus cannot free himself…the name Lazarus means “helped by God.” We really need God to help us come out.
May the Lord Jesus free us. Amen